GolfBC, Western Canada’s largest golf ownership group, is redefining itself.

GolfBC was founded as an owner/operator, and since 1989 it’s assembled a portfolio that now consists of six well-regarded daily-fee and semiprivate venues in British Columbia plus a world-famous resort in Hawaii.

The family-owned, Vancouver -based company sold Furry Creek Golf and Country Club in October, which included development land surrounding the golf course. GolfBC is now evaluating third-party management opportunities.

“We’re new to management contracts, but they’re something we’re looking at for the future,” said Rita Rennie, GolfBC’s director of marketing. “We aren’t actively seeking them, but we want to be ready if some come along.”

The evolution is a reflection of changes that are taking place at GolfBC’s parent company, Burrard International Holdings, Inc., a Vancouver-based development company with holdings in both Canada and the United States.

Burrard was co-founded in 1987 by Caleb Chan, whose passions for golf and real estate have made him one of Canada’s richest people. (In 2015, a Canadian publication estimated his family’s net worth at $1.08 billion.) Not long ago, however, Chan reportedly moved to Hong Kong, his birthplace, and his companies are now being turned over to his son, Christian, who’s less enthusiastic about the golf business. Christian sees more potential in other types of development, particularly urban development.

“Our focus is changing,” Rennie acknowledged. “We’re in a transitional phase, so part of our future remains to be seen.”

Caleb Chan’s primary golf-related goal was “to establish a series of world-class facilities throughout the province and beyond where players could experience total golfing excellence.” His facilities in British Columbia, all of them part of Burrard-owned master-planned communities, feature seven 18-hole courses and one nine-hole track, while the venue in Hawaii, Wailea Golf Club on the island of Maui, has a 54-hole complex.

GolfBC’s courses have hosted several high-profile professional events, among them Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, the Skins Game, the LPGA Skins Game and the Senior PGA Skins Game. The company also has a four-year contract to serve as the title sponsor of the GolfBC Championship, an annual event on the Canadian arm of the PGA Tour.

In addition, since 2013 GolfBC’s properties have been affiliated with Pacific Links International, a club that offers its members playing privileges at hundreds of golf courses in more than two dozen nations. PLI focuses its marketing on golfers in China, Taiwan and South Korea, and it promises them “a memorable golf experience” on “tour-quality” courses created by “some of the game’s greatest designers.”

With a group that includes a Jack Nicklaus signature course (Nicklaus North Golf Course in Whistler), a Nicklaus Design course (the Bear track at Okanagan Golf Club in Kelowna) and two Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed courses at Wailea, GolfBC’s venues appear to meet PLI’s criteria.

“We hope to be the first choice for golf in every city or region that we operate in,” Rennie explained. “We may not have the premier property in the area, but we want to be a golfer’s first choice.”

GolfBC currently ranks as Canada’s third-largest owner/operator, behind ClubLink and GolfNorth. This year the company sold one of its properties, Furry Creek Golf & Country Club in metropolitan Vancouver, but Rennie says the transaction isn’t an omen about the future.

“We have no plans to let any of our courses go,” she said. “They’re all profitable, and they’re all important to the make-up of GolfBC.”

A more important sign of things to come is probably the management agreement that GolfBC signed this year on Blue Ocean Golf Club, in Sechelt, British Columbia. It’s the company’s first step in a possible new direction, and Rennie doesn’t rule out taking on clients in Alberta, Hawaii and other areas.

Of course, if GolfBC branches out beyond British Columbia in any significant way, it may need to change its name.

“We’ve struggled with our name,” Rennie acknowledged. “The BC could stand for a lot of things, not just British Columbia. It could mean ‘beautiful courses.’”

 

 

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